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The Buzz: Early vote leaning Obama's direction?

Pinellas trails in early voting: Seen in a reflection of the doors leading into the Pinellas County government offices, election worker Lyn Heiges of St. Pete Beach watches voters lined up in St. Petersburg for early voting on Saturday. The decision by Pinellas Elections Supervisor Deborah Clark to open only three early voting sites has given her county statewide distinction. Of the 25 largest counties in Florida, none has a lower rate of early voting. Through Friday, only 2.2 percent of registered voters — 14,235 people — had voted early. By comparison, the percentages were 6.4 percent in Hillsborough, 7.9 percent in Pasco, 9.1 percent in Sarasota, 10.6 percent in Duval, and 13.3 percent in St. John’s County.

EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times

Pinellas trails in early voting: Seen in a reflection of the doors leading into the Pinellas County government offices, election worker Lyn Heiges of St. Pete Beach watches voters lined up in St. Petersburg for early voting on Saturday. The decision by Pinellas Elections Supervisor Deborah Clark to open only three early voting sites has given her county statewide distinction. Of the 25 largest counties in Florida, none has a lower rate of early voting. Through Friday, only 2.2 percent of registered voters — 14,235 people — had voted early. By comparison, the percentages were 6.4 percent in Hillsborough, 7.9 percent in Pasco, 9.1 percent in Sarasota, 10.6 percent in Duval, and 13.3 percent in St. John’s County.

After four days of early voting last week, it looked likely that Barack Obama had taken the lead in ballots cast in Florida. We don't know how they voted, of course, but Democrats had cast 653,573 votes — 316,853 absentee mail votes and 336,720 votes at early voting locations. Republicans had cast 652,648 votes — 457,395 absentee and 195,253 early votes.

A St. Petersburg Times-Bay News 9-Miami Herald poll found that among voters who said they intended to vote on Election Day, John McCain had a 10-point advantage.

"We understand the Democrats are going to try to run up the score on early votes. In 2004 certainly Democrats had an advantage during the early vote period, so we anticipate that may happen again,'' said senior McCain adviser Mike DuHaime. "But I feel that our numbers in the absentee ballots, as well as the number of people who are going to turn out and early vote and the number of people that are going to turn out on Election Day, will more than compensate."

That key Miami factor

Keep an eye on Miami-Dade. It could be the single most important county in determining who wins Florida. Democrats added about 282,000 voters to the rolls since 2004 than Republicans, and nearly 90,000 were in Miami-Dade.

Registering voters is not as important as turning out voters, however. That explains why Steve Hildebrand, a senior Obama campaign organizer, has moved to Miami until the end of the campaign. Another, Paul Tewes, is in Tampa at the state headquarters.

Our campaign lineup

Elisabeth Hasselbeck of ABC's The View will introduce Sarah Palin at her rally at the Tampa Convention Center this morning. Doors open at 9 a.m. but the event does not start until about noon.

Tickets are can be obtained online at johnmccain.com/ste/eventrsvp.aspx.

Joe Biden will be at Sims Park in New Port Richey on Monday evening to start an "Early Vote for Change" bus tour. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. No tickets are required.

Independent candidate Ralph Nader is scheduled to hold a rally at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Cuban Club in Tampa, 2010 N 14th St. The event is open, but seeks a contribution of $10, or $5 for students.

The Libertarian view

Speaking of third-party candidates, check out the Libertarian nominee for president, former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, on Political Connections on Bay News 9 today at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. The former Georgia Republican dismissed Obama and McCain as "two peas in the same pod, both in support of ever-expanding big government.”

Why not VP Crist?

Why didn't McCain pick Gov. Charlie Crist as his running mate? A snippet from a McCain profile in today's New York Times Magazine: "The group reviewed names that had been bandied about in the past: Gov. Tim Pawlenty (of Minnesota) and Crist; the former Govs. Tom Ridge (Pennsylvania) and Mitt Romney (Massachusetts); Sen. Joe Lieberman (Connecticut); and Mayor Michael Bloomberg (New York). From a branding standpoint, they wondered, what message would each of these candidates send about John McCain? (Republican pollster Bill) McInturff's polling data suggested that none of these candidates brought significantly more to the ticket than any other."

Winner of the week

Tom Rooney: Republican Rooney had a fair shot at winning Rep. Tim Mahoney's congressional seat in South Florida. But now he looks like a sure winner after revelations of Mahoney's multiple affairs. The latest? Mahoney's wife filed for divorce, national Democratic leaders are steering clear of the incumbent. Mahoney refused to appear in a debate in Palm Beach County last week because TV cameras were there, so Rooney participated alone.

Loser of

the week

Rep. Tom Feeney: Republican Feeney once looked like a rising conservative star in Washington. Now the former Florida House speaker from the Orlando area looks like toast. The National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee has cut off funding his the race, basically seeing his race against Democrat Suzanne Kosmas as a lost cause.

The Buzz: Early vote leaning Obama's direction? 10/25/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 27, 2008 4:54pm]
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